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Friday
Jun172011

Domestic Workers' Rights Bill Will Have Little Effect in US

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, passed a set of international standards -- the Convention on Domestic Workers -- on Thursday aimed at protecting the rights of domestic workers around the world.

Domestic workers -- which includes housekeepers, nannies and chauffeurs -- make up 3.6 percent of total wage employment and 7.5 percent of women employees worldwide.  Yet in countries that have minimum wage regulations for other workers, 21.5 million domestic workers are not covered, the ILO report said.

The United States alone is home to at least 2.5 million domestic workers, according to the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

The Convention on Domestic Workers, which is essentially an international treaty that must be ratified by member countries, includes the right to at least one full day of rest per week, clear terms and conditions of employment, and collective bargaining.  It also places limits on working hours for people under the age of 18, the number of hours workers can be "on call" and a host of other rights for domestic workers.

"If it is broadly ratified, then it sets an international standard that people can go to that country and point out problems and try to hold them accountable," said Adam Greene, the vice president for labor affairs and corporate responsibility at the U.S.Council for International Business, which represents the U.S. business community at the ILO conference every year.

"But there is zero chance that the U.S. will ever ratify this," Greene said, because U.S. labor laws are for the most part regulated by the states, and this treaty would create a new set of federal regulations regarding domestic work.

Greene said ILO conventions can only be ratified by the U.S. Senate if the conventions do not change existing U.S. law.  The U.S. has ratified only two of the ILO's 189 conventions, he said.

While there is little chance the ILO convention will be adopted at the national level, Amelita King Dejardin, the chief technical adviser for the ILO's Program on Domestic Workers, said the hope is that it would inspire legislation at the state level.

"Because of this, there will be more public attention," she said. "Hopefully, the passage of this convention will help raise greater awareness among families and among local governments to pay attention to this."

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